This weekend was a welcome taste of warmer weather to come, and anyone who was wise took advantage of it! We did as well, by doing some hiking and exploring along Chicago’s north shore. I’ve been to Fort Sheridan and the Openlands Lakeshore Preserve before, but it was significantly more pleasant this time around, with nearly 60 degree weather.
I decided to do a bit of research about the history of Fort Sheridan as well. The site was originally established as a French trading post, conveniently connecting Chicago to Wisconsin. But nothing much happened here until Fort Sheridan was established in the 1880s, as a military post to “keep the peace” for the rapidly growing city of Chicago (read “suppressing labor unrest”). It was named after a certain General Sheridan, hence the name.
And so the site was developed into a well-equipped military base, designed by the architectural firm Holabird & Roche (they designed some of Chicago’s first “skyscrapers”, like the Marquette building). The focal point of the complex still seems to be the 200+ foot water tower, seen in the picture here. I look at it and think, is it really just a water tower? I guess so…
The rest of the area were homes for officers and their families, barracks, mess hall and stables, all clustered around a large parade ground. And while Fort Sheridan played a major role in both world wars, and conflicts both before and after, the Fort was officially closed in 1993. There are still military goings-on around here, but the historic neighborhood now seems like a pretty desirable neighborhood for non-military residents. A condo or townhome goes for about half a million or more here.
The Openlands Lakeshore Preserve is just a small section of lakefront property adjacent to Fort Sheridan that has been under restoration the last few years. The ecosystem is supposedly rare and unique in Illinois, but still in need of ongoing restoration. But, with the trail running along a high bluff over the shoreline, the beauty of getting such an elevated glimpse of Lake Michigan is what really makes it for me. Now, I just have to make it back here during summer…